We can't control the changing seasons, however much we might like to! In winter many of us are affected by the dark days, influencing our mood, energy levels, sleep, appetite, and ability to enjoy life. And about 1 in 20 of us are affected more seriously, in the form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
The lack of light in the winter can upset our circadian rhythm (or body clock) triggering an imbalance between serotonin (the feel good hormone) and melatonin (which prepares us for sleep). This can lead to low levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps maintain a happy state of mind.
Of course early man lived much more in harmony with nature - winter being a time for slowing down, introspection and taking stock, ready for a spurt of activity in spring. Unfortunately modern life makes that somewhat difficult!
Tips for feeling better:
•It’s vital to maximize light exposure, so wrap up and get outside. It reminds us of the simple pleasures of being a creature - appreciate the changing seasons and the small details of nature. Consider light therapy - light boxes and dawn simulator clocks can make a real difference to your mood. I can personally recommend them. Google for lots of research data and suppliers.
•Get plenty of exercise – it increases levels of serotonin!
•Keep stress in check and get lots of rest and relaxation. A high speed lifestyle is working against nature!
•Eat healthily. Watch the carbohydrates – we often crave them in winter and overdo things.
•Have a regular sleep routine – try to go to bed and get up at about the same time, even at weekends
•Notice your thoughts. Our thoughts affect how we feel, so challenging negative thoughts and developing a more positive attitude will make all the difference. Remind yourself what’s good in life, what you are grateful for.
•Ask yourself ‘what energises me, what makes me feel better?’ and do more of it.
•Fun and laughter are great antidotes to depression – plan outings, see friends, maybe learn a foreign language, join a club or take up pottery. Make the effort –it’s worth it.
•Enjoy the simple pleasures of lighting a fire, or beautifully fragranced candles, a cosy sofa and a good book…. and that steaming cup of hot chocolate! Enjoy living in the moment!
If you need some support don’t bottle it up – talk to a friend, have some counselling or life coaching. And remember spring is just around the corner!